Mexico: Migration through a lens

  • Published

An exhibition of photographs by members of a citizen photojournalism tour to Mexico highlights the human side of migration to the United States.

The team worked in three communities, Cenotillo, Hoctun and Tunkas, all not far from Merida, the state capital of Yucatan. Over the past two decades, residents have seen a significant number of the population cross the border to the US, many never to return.

The group was led by volunteer organisation Ubelong's co-founder Raul Roman and former New York Times photojournalist Lonnie Schlein, and comprises portraits of those affected by the migration. These images are on show at the Cervantes Institute in New York.

Anacleto, caretaker of the Hoctun cemetery for the past 50 years

Image source, Lonnie Schlein / UBELONG

Anacleto spoke about a woman who was buried the day before the photograph was taken. He said: "She was 72. Fifteen years ago her five sons left for the United States. They could not be here. They will never come back."

Juan Casanova

Image source, Joey Rosa / UBELONG

Juan Casanova at his home in Hoctun shows his American and Mexican passports. He said: "There is no other place like the US. They open the gates when you need a chance."

Raimundo and his wife Luci at their home in Tunkas

Image source, Lonnie Schlein

Raimundo recently returned to his hometown after spending a few years in the US as an undocumented immigrant.

"People have good houses here because they have relatives in the US. We are thankful that our parents sacrificed so much as immigrants to give us a better life, but we felt abandoned growing up here. I returned home to be a true father figure for my child."

Clara and Wendy in Hoctun

Image source, Joey Rosa / UBELONG

Clara and Wendy are the mother and the wife of Steve, a Hoctun native who migrated to the United States 12 years ago. They said: "We are two women waiting for the same man. We pray every day that he comes back soon."

Martha and her husband Faustino

Image source, Lonnie Schlein / UBELONG

Martha and Faustino's children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in the United States.

Martha said: "We are happy that almost our entire family has a better life in the United States, but we're also sad that our culture and way of life are slowly disappearing from the future of our family."

Celia and her daughter Karime

Image source, Raul Roman / UBELONG

Celia, 44, and Karime, 26, have parallel lives. Both married husbands who left for the United States shortly afterwards.

Karime summarises a common feeling among women in her hometown: "When our husbands leave we all have hopes that they will return soon. But almost nobody comes back home. My husband left in search of the American dream, and on the way he lost his family and I lost mine."


Image source, Ashley Scoby / UBELONG

Miguel returned to Tunkas after spending 10 years in California.

He said: "They gave me a job the first day I arrived in the United States. I sent money to my wife every fortnight. She bought land and began to build our house. One day she told me that the work is finished. She said: 'Whenever you are ready to return, you will be coming to your own home.'"


Image source, Joey Rosa / UBELONG

Sonia is seen here with her four-month-old granddaughter. Her husband left for the United States 17 years ago and has not returned. She said: "When people cross the border, they change, but often for the worse."

Jose Rodolfo

Image source, Maria Cuomo / UBELONG

Jose Rodolfo, 70, lives in both the United States and in his small town in Mexico. "I became an American citizen. My American dream is to eat well, to wear better clothes, and be comfortable. There is no misery in America."

Mexico: Immigration Through a Lens, the Human Side of Mexican Migration to the United States is on show at Cervantes Institute in New York from 6 - 24 October 2015.